A Lady in Red

I’m so bad about posting this sort of stuff, but the vast majority of what I do isn’t quite so flashy.

But here: A Thing I Made! Isn’t she pretty? She took approximately 1 million hours. Or…two weeks? I think. The cutting of the fabric alone took 10+ hours.

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In case anyone ever tells you that theatrical costuming isn’t detailed or precise, please show them the little lace do-dads on this bodice. Not only is each one hand applied, but they’re individually cut out of yardage, and then hand applied. In the scheme of things, not something that took a long time, but also not something you probably even noticed in the full-scale image, and DEFINITELY not something you notice on the actress when she’s on stage.

Still, pretty.

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News! Of the Grad School Variety.

I don’t know how to start this announcement, but I want to tell you still:

I got into grad school.

I’m going to grad school.

As long as I can figure out the funds (and I think that I can), I start this summer. June 22.

So…okay. I’ve wanted to attend grad school for a long time. I first tried back as an undergrad to get into a costuming MFA program, but I was too much of a baby and they didn’t want me (which was very good). Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea again. I even applied (and was accepted!) to a couple of programs, but when it came time to make the final decision, I didn’t do it. I wasn’t ready to invest the time or the money into studying what I was sort of already doing. Not that I don’t have A LOT to learn, or that an MFA in costuming wouldn’t be useful, but… I don’t know. It never felt right.

Recently, I started looking into MFA programs in writing. I had mixed feelings. While I think craft can be taught (and I have a lot to learn!), I don’t think you need an MFA to write. You can just write. The books or stories or poems you’re writing will teach you new things every time you attempt them. Some (most!) of my favorite authors don’t have big, fancy degrees.

And yet.

I still wanted to do it. And not just any writing program, but writing for children.

Oh, and also, I didn’t want to give up costuming.

So. MFA program. Writing for children. Low Residency. There are actually multiple programs that fit this very narrow bill.

But I wanted one more thing. I wanted the chance, down the road, in the program, to study literature. To delve deep in a scholarly, academic way, into words and themes. To extract meaning. And all of the programs do this to some extent. But one did it better than the others. So I applied to that one.

And Monday evening I received THE letter: Hollins University has accepted me to their MFA in children’s literature program. So far, on paper, it’s a perfect fit. It’s an MFA program, so I’ll be focused on writing. It meets for 6 weeks in the summer, when I’m off anyway. And best of all, there’s an MA track. So if I want to take those meaty literature courses, I’ll be able to. Or maybe, I’ll have to. I haven’t gotten that far yet.

So. There you have it.

I’m going to grad school.

Also: here’s a picture of a cat. You’re welcome.

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New Orleans: Day 1 (All About Dem Birds)

Our first full day in New Orleans was full of food, rest, and aquarium adventures. We started out a little later than planned, but still pretty early, walking the few blocks to Cafe Beignet, our housemates favorite places to get Beignets. It was packed. Like, lines out the door crazy packed. (This, as you may be guessing, has become somewhat of a theme of our trip.)

So…we pulled up yelp and walked around the corner to the little Cafe Fleur De Lis. It was pretty great, and we had our first celebrity sighting. I was staring as some lady’s breakfast (because I couldn’t tell what it was and it looked interesting). Then she looked up and gave me this strange, strained smile. It was Robin Roberts (from Good Morning America), and I’m fairly certain she thought I was staring at her. Oops.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

After breakfast we headed to the aquarium, which was Kyle’s birthday gift to me. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we ran up to Parakeet Point, where for the low, low price of $1.50 you can get a little feed stick to feed parakeets in a large, netted room. It was amazing. Like, one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done.

The parakeets were charming and sweet. They loved getting into small spaces–pockets and purses, even sleeves a couple of times.

This is my absolute must do recommendation for anyone who comes to New Orleans (or if we ever come back).

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Inside that yellow cage, are hundreds of parakeets.

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What’s in here?!

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A perfect perch for the most discerning of parakeets.

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Feed stick, licked clean.

 

After our first round with the birds we came back for a quick sandwich (Mufaletta, for the win!) and nap, then went back to the Aquarium. There were more birds to feed! And also, fish. We figured we ought to spend some time with them as well.

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For dinner we trekked up to Frenchman St to Three Muses, a short-of tapas place with fantastic food, cocktails and music. Afterward we wandered around the street, listening to music (Kyle was especially happy to find a sousaphone player in the midst of the hubbub). But the highlight for me was attending an outdoor art market and finding the art of Tony Hollums.

Oh my word, his art. Just follow the link above. It’s beyond beautiful. Despite always loving art, I’ve never actually had a favorite artist before, and now I do.

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Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

We bought 4 of his prints, then headed home for a short sleep. We were getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi.

 

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New Orleans Trip: Day .5

We arrived late(ish) last night, tired and famished. So we checked in, unpacked, and then braved the streets of New Orleans.

There were lots of drunk people. Lots. And surprisingly enough, a huge chunk of them were older than us. For some reason, neither of us expected that.

We tried to go to ACME Oyster House for an oyster po-boy that was highly recommended by a friend who grew up around these parts. Not knowing how it worked, and wanting to see how long the wait was, we started to go in only to be shouted at by a member at the waitstaff that we had to wait in line. “Wait in line!” Multiple times. To be fair to her, there was a glob of people standing outside the restaurant. To be fair to us, it looked nothing like a line. And we weren’t trying to cut. Needless to say, we left. You could even say, we left in a huff. Well, I left in a huff. Kyle doesn’t generally huff much.

We wandered around, trying to get Yelp to load to figure out where our next best bet was. And we finally landed at the Palace Cafe. It was nice. The shrimp remoulade was AMAZING, as was the blueberry tart (so says Kyle. I don’t generally eat blueberries willingly.) 

The pecan pie was not as good as my Grandma’s, but that was no shock.

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The Crown of Isis

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This picture was taken after 6 weeks in rehearsal/performance. It held up pretty well!

I thought everyone would like to see what I made this September. Among other things: a headdress for our Antony & Cleopatra!

 

 

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Sorry about the blurriness, but the back was my favorite.

It’s constructed on a covered foss-shape base. The folded, golden pieces are thermagauze, a thin thermaplastic that molds and bends with heat. The thermagauze is covered in a textured spray paint, gilded with (faux) gold leaf., and then slightly painted into to add depth and age.

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An in-progress pic. Before the “wings” were added to the front and sides.

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The roughest of drafts. A very in-progress mock up made with a thicker thermaplastic, oaktag and brown paper. Believe it or not, this wasn’t even the very first attempt!

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Writing Assistant Monday: NaNoWriMo, Begins!

 

 

I’m working on two projects for this year’s NaNoWriMo (a competition to complete 50,000 new words during the month of November). First, I’m finishing up the 2nd draft of my upper MG novel based on my short story “The Rum Cake Runner,” then I’ll be tackling the beginning of a brand new YA based on my bootcamp story, currently titled Discovering Justice. November is traditionally a very hard month at work, but writing comes slightly easier to me now than it ever has, so I’m hopeful that I’ll actually win (finish) this year.

The cats, as you can tell, are very supportive of my goals. IMG_1904.JPG

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The Hundred Dresses, Twenty Years Later

I’m not sure how many years it’s actually been since I first read Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses. Maybe 20. Probably more in the range of 22 or 23, because this book–this little, beautiful book–was the very first “real” book I remember reading as a child. The first book that had chapters, and whole pages of text without pictures. My original copy was small and white, and in my memory it was 100 pages long. The perfect number for a book about 100 dresses. And when I read it, I loved it. It made me happy and made me sad. It was the best introduction to “literature” little girl Jessica could have possibly had.

 

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This new copy is bigger. It’s broader. The me from childhood wouldn’t have liked that its size is a blend between a chapter book and a picture book. And this version has pictures. Colorful, beautiful pictures throughout. I’m not sure I would have liked that either. Afterall, I was proud of my “real” book, and my accomplishment in being able to read, understand, and love such a mature book. Plus, it’s only 80 pages. A round number, true, but not nearly as poetic as 100.

I went out this morning and picked this up, because I’ve been thinking about The Hundred Dresses a lot lately, and how wrapped up my identity might be in it. It’s about a little girl, who didn’t quite fit into the world she was in, and to cope, she made up stories of beautiful dresses.

I have to be honest, I’m a little scared to reread it, so many years later. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t like the girl? Or if the story doesn’t move me? Then again, it’s been in print continuously since 1945, so I’ll be quite the snob if I don’t like it. But what if I don’t love it.

Then again, if I don’t, that doesn’t mean it has less power. I think the beauty of art is that it changes with us as we grow. Sometimes we grow with a piece, gaining new understanding and depth of perspective with the wisdom that comes only through time, and sometimes we grow away from a piece. The latter doesn’t make its original worth anyway less. And so, I delve in again, so many years later.

I hope I’ll love it.

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Interview at Flash Fiction Chronicles

Aliza Greenblatt over at Flash Fiction Chronicles recently interviewed me about “Remnants of a Quilter’s Memory,” because it was Every Day Fiction’s highest-rated story for June! In case you’re interested, here it is.

The whole process of publishing this story with EDF has been really lovely.

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The Best Gown of the Figaros…

…had to be the Count’s dressing gown, of course.

Hanging out. LIke ya do.

Hanging out, pre-painting.

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Dulling down the pink, brightening up the yellow.

It’s long-past time that I posted some of what I worked on this Spring for the two new Stephen Wadsworth productions (Marriage of Figaro and Barber of Seville). These two monsters were, well, monsters. Far too large for our little shop to appropriately handle, but we made it through, somehow (lots of overhire! lots of overtime!).

One of my favorite projects to build was the Count’s dressing gown. Although it was a simple pattern, it was still intense. To begin, I had to cut it so that the largest flowers were offset from one another and went yellow-pink-yellow-pink around the body. There wasn’t enough fabric. (There’s never enough fabric.) But working together, my draper and I squeezed the pattern on and I cut it. I didn’t even close my eyes or look away, though I wanted to.

That managed and still alive, I had to hand paint each flower so that the pink flowers didn’t totally dominate the print. The pink got dulled down and the yellow got brightened up. This was by far my favorite part of the project. (Look how pretty those yellow flowers are!) And it wasn’t scary. It was, however, time consuming. Painting the flowers took a whole 8-hour day.

And then came the easy part–just sewing it together. Neal Bledsoe, who played the Count, makes it look stunning of course.

Before and after. Hand-painted flowers.

Before and after. Hand-painted flowers.

The finished product! Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

For more photos of the Marriage of Figaro and the Barber of Seville, head on over to McCarter Theatre’s website. I worked on a lot of the menswear, including Figaro’s amazing leather jacket.

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Cakes!

 

One of the big projects I did when I was home in Michigan this June was to help Mom revamp the window displays for the cake shop. I had a lot of fun searching on pinterest for style ideas, both for the background of the windows and for the cake dummies that would sit inside them.

One of my main goals for the “fun” window (she has two and the other was wedding/romance themed), was to try to get away from really girly cakes. Cake can be for everyone, obviously, but I think a lot of time people thing of decorated cakes and they think of swirls and flowers and sugar pearls.

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The first cake I tackled? Admittedly girly, but I liked the grass feature. As far as decorating and fondant work go, it’s an amateur attempt at best. Mom can do much, much better. But it’s for a window display and not a promotional shot, so we declared it alright.

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The hobbit cake was something I designed because I thought the nerdy guys in my life would like it. And I was right! Kyle loved it and wanted me to bring it back to NJ with me. But nope, into the window it went!

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This third cake, is my favorite. Again the fondant work is only so-so, but I love the monochromatic colors and its simplicity. The little red crab was supposed to go on top of the cake, hanging over the edge of the waves, but I found the darling whales in Mom’s extra fondant figures box and I couldn’t help but use them. They’re perfect and so charming. Now the crab sits in the sugar sand at the bottom of the cake.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. Though I have to say, cake decorating is HARD and not for me. I’m glad to jump in when I can to help out, and it was fun to stretch some new and different creative muscles, but oofta. I’m glad it’s done.

I don’t have any pictures of the finished window displays, but if you’re in Hillsdale you should swing by and check them out. They’re pretty great (if I do say so myself). And if you’re there between 10-3, stop in and get a cupcake!

 

 

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